Of Categories and Queues and Structural Realities

  • B Camminga
Part of the Global Queer Politics book series (GQP)


On entering the country, an individual has 14 days to report to a Refugee Reception Office and apply for asylum. To access a centre, asylum seekers are required to queue. Faced with two separate lines, one for men and one for women—much like the issues surrounding transgender access to public bathrooms—gender refugees approaching the South African state for asylum are immediately forced to make a choice. This queue also creates the conditions for surveillance, particularly as different regions are serviced on different days, which brings together the same asylum seekers from similar regions on the continent. This can make life for those who transition in South Africa doubly exposing, as they possibly move between queues witnessed by local communities. This chapter questions the necessity of an ever-ubiquitous system of sex/gender identification in the lives of asylum seekers, noting current developments internationally, regionally, and locally in relation to the development of third gender categories, ‘X’ category passports, the suppression of gender markers, and wider debates about the removal and necessity of sex/gender identifiers on documents and their impact.


  1. Admin. ‘Intersex and the Sex Files: Good for Trans*, Bad for Intersex’. Intersex Human Rights Australia, 15 May 2011.
  2. Aizura, Aren Z. ‘Transgender Travel Narratives’. In Transgender Migrations: The Bodies, Borders and Politics of Transition, ed. Trystan T Cotten, 139–156. New York: Routledge, 2012.Google Scholar
  3. Amit, Roni. Queue Here for Corruption Measuring Irregularities in South Africa’s Asylum System. Johannesburg: Lawyers for Human Rights African Centre for Migration and Society, 2015.Google Scholar
  4. Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. New York and London: Verso Books, 2006.Google Scholar
  5. Associated Press in New Delhi. ‘India Recognises Transgender People as Third Gender’. The Guardian, 15 May 2014.
  6. Belvedere, M. Florencia. ‘Insiders But Outsiders: The Struggle for the Inclusion of Asylum Seekers and Refugees in South Africa’. Refuge 24, no. 1 (2007): 57–70.Google Scholar
  7. Brink, Marjolein van den. ‘Onpraktisc, Oninteressat En Ongepast’. In Vrouw & Recht: De Beweging, de Mensen, de Issues, ed. Margeet de Boer and Marjan Wijers, 165–170. Amsterdam: Pallas Publications, 2009.Google Scholar
  8. Brink, Marjolein van den, Philipp Reus, and Jet Tigchelaar. ‘Out of the Box? Domestic and Private International Law Aspects of Gender Registration’. European Journal of Law Reform 7, no. 2 (2015): 282–293.Google Scholar
  9. Carpenter, Morgan. ‘German Proposals for a “Third Gender” on Birth Certificates Miss the Mark’. Organisation Intersex International Australia Limited, 20 August 2013.
  10. Cauterucci, Christina. ‘France Now Recognizes a “Neutral Gender”—but It’s Just As Narrow As the First Two’. Slate, 15 October 2015.
  11. Chigorimbo, Shamiso F. V. ‘Africa: International—Where Are Diverse Gender Identities in the Sixteen Day Campaign?’, 27 November 2015.
  12. Cohen, David S. ‘Sex Segregation, Masculinities and Gender-Variant Individuals’. In Masculinities and the Law: A Multidimensional Approach, ed. Frank Rudy Cooper and Anne C. McGinley, 167–186. New York, NY: New York University Press, 2012.Google Scholar
  13. Cornelius, Jerome, and Bobby Jordan. ‘Asylum Seekers Get Cold Shoulder’. Times Live, 8 December 2014.
  14. Currah, Paisley, and Tara Mulqueen. ‘Securitizing Gender: Identity, Biometrics, and Transgender Bodies at the Airport’. Social Research 78, no. 2 (2011): 557–582.Google Scholar
  15. DeBarros, Luiz. ‘Home Affairs Drives Transwoman to Hunger Strike’. Mamba Online—Gay South Africa Online, 9 October 2014.
  16. Deputy Minister of Home Affairs. State of Refugee Reception Offices: Briefing by Deputy Minister, Home Affairs (2011).
  17. Dolan, Christopher, Alexandra Chapman, and Daniel Neumann. Getting Out. Producciones Doble Banda S.L., 2011.Google Scholar
  18. Dzimwasha, Taku. ‘Zimbabweans Migrating to South Africa at Risk of Abuse and Exploitation | Taku Dzimwasha | Global Development | The Guardian’. The Guardian, 13 January 2014.
  19. Egale Canada. ‘Policy Paper: “Sex” Inscriptions on the Canadian Passport’. Toronto, 2011.
  20. ‘Eshe’. Interview with ‘Eshe’, 2008. ‘Gender Dynamix Collection—GAL108’. Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action Archive William Cullen Library, University of the Witwatersrand.Google Scholar
  21. Fanfare July. 52nd ed. The Phoenix Society, 1991. ‘Joy Wellbeloved Collection’—GAL0013. Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action Archive. William Cullen Library, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.Google Scholar
  22. Fausto-Sterling, Anne. ‘The Five Sexes, Revisited’. The Sciences (July/August 2000): 19–23.Google Scholar
  23. Feministisch Netwerk GroenLinks. ‘* Verplicht Veld? Pleidooi Voor Verkennen van Mogelijkheden Voor Afschaffen van Geslacht Als Juridisch Onderscheid’. Netherlands, 2011.
  24. Gender DynamiX (GDX). Gender Dynamix on Alteration of Sex Description & Sex Status Act implementation; Lawyers for Human Rights on Statelessness; CoRMSA on Closure of Refugee Reception Offices in metro areas, § Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs (2012).
  25. George, Rosemary Marangoly. The Politics of Home: Postcolonial Relocations and Twentieth-Century Fiction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.Google Scholar
  26. Hess, Lauren. ‘South Africa: Home Affairs Trauma for Pretoria Transgender’. News24, 19 August 2015.
  27. HIVOS. ‘Human Rights Victory: Ugandan Transgender, Lesbian and Gay Human Rights Upheld In the High Court of Uganda’., 23 December 2008.
  28. Human Rights Watch. Living on the Margins: Inadequate Protection for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Johannesburg. New York: Human Rights Watch, November 2005.Google Scholar
  29. Human Rights Watch, and International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC). MORE THAN A NAME State-Sponsored Homophobia and Its Consequences in Southern Africa. New York: Human Rights Watch, 2003.Google Scholar
  30. International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). ‘Part 4: Specifications for Machine Readable Passports (MRPs) and Other TD3 Size MRTDs’. In Doc 9303 Machine Readable Travel Documents Seventh Edition, 1–38. ICAO, 2015.
  31. Karim, Mohosinul. ‘Hijras Now a Separate Gender’. Dhaka Tribune, 11 November 2013.
  32. Kogan, Terry S. ‘Transsexuals in Public Restrooms: Law, Cultural Geography and Etsitty v Utah Transit Authority’. Temple Political and Civil Rights Law Review 18, no. 2 (2009): 673–698.Google Scholar
  33. Legal Resources Center, and Gender DynamiX (GDX). Briefing Paper: Alteration of Sex Description and Sex Status Act, No 49 of 2003. Cape Town, 2015.
  34. Lovemore, Annette, and Minister of Home Affairs. ‘Internal Question Paper No 41 of 2011’, 25 November 2011.
  35. Luibheid, Eithne. Entry Denied: Controlling Sexuality at the Border. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2002.Google Scholar
  36. Matata, Lydia. ‘Identifying as Neither Male Nor Female, Some Kenyans Seek a Third Option on Official Documents’., 2 December 2015.
  37. Meadow, Tey. ‘“A Rose Is a Rose”: On Producing Legal Gender Classifications’. Gender & Society 24, no. 6 (December 2010): 814–837.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Mukasa, Victor, and Rev. Canon Albert Ogle. ‘Washington National Cathedral: Information about LGBT Rights Abroad: The Spirit of 76’. Washington National Cathedral, 2013.
  39. Namaste, Vivian K. Invisible Lives: The Erasure of Transsexual and Transgendered People. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.Google Scholar
  40. Nandi, Jacinta. ‘Germany Got It Right by Offering a Third Gender Option on Birth Certificates’. The Guardian, 10 November 2013.
  41. New Zealand (Presented by). A Review of the Requirement to Display the Holder’s Gender on Travel Documents. International Civil Aviation Organization Information Paper. Montreal, 10 December 2012.
  42. Ntluli, Busisiwe. ‘The Stories of Several LGBTI Africans Persecuted for Being Born LGBTI’. Special Assignment. Cape Town: South African Broadcasting Corporation, 20 October 2011.
  43. Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration (ORAM). No Place for Me: The Struggles of Sexual and Gender Minority Refugees, 2013.
  44. Peterson, V. Spike. ‘Political Identities/Nationalism as Heterosexism’. International Feminist Journal of Politics 1, no. 1 (7 December 2010): 34–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs, ‘State of Ports of Entry and Refugee Reception Offices’, Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs (2012),
  46. ———. ‘Department of Home Affairs—Refugee Status & Asylum’., 2014.
  47. Prosser, Jay. Second Skins: The Body Narratives of Transsexuality. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.Google Scholar
  48. Radio Free Europe. ‘Pakistan’s “Third Gender” Demand Rights Protection’. Radio Free Europe, 8 June 2010.
  49. Rosenblum, Darren. ‘“Trapped” in Sing Sing: Transgendered Prisoners Caught in the Gender Binarism’. Michigan Journal of Gender Law 6 (2000): 499–571.Google Scholar
  50. Rulashe, Pumla. ‘Refugees Lobby for Identity in South Africa’., 1 May 2004.
  51. Rumbach, Jennifer, and Kyle Knight. ‘Sexual and Gender Minorities in Humanitarian Emergencies’. In Issues of Gender and Sexual Orientation in Humanitarian Emergencies: Risks and Risk Reduction, ed. Larry Roeder, 33–74. New York: Springer, 2014.Google Scholar
  52. ‘Sasha’. Interview with ‘Sasha’, 2008. ‘Gender Dynamix Collection—GAL108’. Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action Archive William Cullen Library, University of the Witwatersrand.Google Scholar
  53. Schmall, Emily. ‘Transgender Advocates Hail Law Easing Rules in Argentina’. The New York Times, 24 May 2012.
  54. Solomon, Alisa. ‘Trans/Migrant: Christian Madrazo’s All-American Story’. In Queer Migrations: Sexuality, US Citizenship and Border Crossings, ed. Eithne Luibheid and Lionel Cantu Jr, 3–30. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005.Google Scholar
  55. South African National Aids Council. ‘Vulnerable Groups: Refugees, Asylum Seekers, and Undocumented Persons: “The Health Situation of Vulnerable Groups in SA”’. Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs. Cape Town: Parliamentary Monitoring Group, 4 March 2008.Google Scholar
  56. Spade, Dean. Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics and the Limits of the Law. Brooklyn, NY: South End Press, 2011.Google Scholar
  57. The Sex and Gender Diversity Project. ‘Sex Files: The Legal Recognition of Sex in Documents and Government Records’. Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, 2009.
  58. Theron, Liesl. ‘When a Progressive Constitution Is Not Enough, and Other Challenges’. In International Association for the Study of Forced Migration. Kampala, Uganda, 2011.
  59. Theron, Liesl, and B Camminga. Interview with Liesl Theron—Director Gender DynamiX, 6 November 2012.Google Scholar
  60. Torpey, John. The Invention of the Passport. Surveillance, Citizenship and the State. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.Google Scholar
  61. Transgender Europe (TGEU). ‘Malta Adopts Ground-Breaking Trans and Intersex Law’., 1 April 2015.
  62. Wendell, Roelf. ‘Refugees Die Waiting for South African Asylum’. ReliefWeb, 21 November 2007.
  63. Yeung, Geoffrey. ‘Using the Convention Against Torture to Advance Transgender and Intersex Rights’., 26 May 2016.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • B Camminga
    • 1
  1. 1.African Centre for Migration and SocietyUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations